Bruce Jenner, Gender Identity, and You
Last night, Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and discussed his lifelong struggles with gender identity and self-acceptance. He said this will be the last time he speaks as Bruce (with the subtext that this also will possibly be the last time he accepts the male pronoun), and said that inside, he’s always felt like “She” (that’s the only name he has for his female self).
Or in other words, Bruce Jenner is a transgendered individual. Inside, where it matters, Jenner is female. And apparently has known it for a long time, despite being married three times and siring six children.
What Jenner discussed most was his difficulty in accepting himself. Early on, he knew he wasn’t the same as other boys. Instead, he identified more with the girls. But he pushed that aside, became a well-known athlete, and did his best to celebrate his masculinity instead.
Because that’s who he was on the outside.
But who he was on the inside was far different. And he had to really struggle to figure himself out.
Being who you are is a powerful thing, you see. But first, you have to accept yourself for who you are before you can embrace it. Being in the public eye, as Bruce Jenner has been for decades, is likely to make that struggle for self-acceptance much more difficult. And so he intimated to Diane Sawyer.
All of this is relevant, topical, and may actually help to bring about a dialogue about sexual identity, gender issues, and how people come in all gender varieties as well as various shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.
However, what I’m already seeing online is a bit worrisome. It seems that some commentators are focused on the more salacious aspects of Bruce Jenner’s lifelong struggle — his three marriages and his six children. They again are only seeing the outward aspect of Jenner, or what he’s shown to date as his outward aspect, anyway…and are discounting the person who talked to Diane Sawyer entirely.
And that completely misses the point.
Whatever name Bruce Jenner decides to use from here on out, whatever gender he identifies with, the person inside — the soul, if you will — is exactly the same.
That’s what Jenner was trying to tell Diane Sawyer.
Now, how can you learn from Bruce Jenner’s struggles?
Somehow, some way, you need to learn to accept yourself. Warts and all, you are a unique individual, and you bring something to the table that no one else has. Your experiences matter, you matter, and you need to remember that.
We all have our differences inside, you see. We all struggle to become our authentic selves, though most don’t have to do it in the public eye like Jenner.
So if you feel like no one understands you, and no one ever will, you are not alone. Because most of us — if not every single last one of us — has thought that at least once in our lives.
Remember, the most important thing is that you understand yourself.
“But Barb,” you protest. “People aren’t even giving me a chance! They think I am something I’m not, because I look different than I am…remember Leelah Alcorn?”
Yes, I remember Leelah.
My point is that you have to accept yourself, whoever and whatever you are, and be confident in that self. It takes time to do this. (It took me until I was well into my thirties to accept all aspects of myself, for example.) But you should do your best to persevere, because if you give yourself time, you will find at least a few people who like and understand you for who you are.
Because you also will like and understand them for who they are.
Remember, we’ve all faced many of the same struggles in trying to form some idea of who we are. Though having a gender identity that does not match your outward physical self certainly complicates things, it isn’t the only reason that you can be confused.
(If it were, psychiatrists would have far less work to do. But I digress.)
So if you have someone in your life who has something different about him or her — whether it’s religion, politics, race, creed, gender identity or anything else — what I want you to do is simple:
Embrace that person’s diversity.
Don’t shun it.
Anything less is, quite frankly, uncivilized.